While Bharat works to eradicate poverty, prioritises its growth and promotes economic development, it is also focusing at the same time on curbing its carbon dioxide pollution. Therefore Prime Minister Modi’s demand for carbon space for the poor and developing countries is justified for Bharat to restore the balance between ecology and economy.
Bharateeya Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a comprehensive, equitable and durable agreement at the ongoing COP 21 meet at Paris thereby signaling that Bharat will not change its stance i.e. it is looking at an agreement, which is based on the principles of equity, and common but differentiated responsibilities. This concept supports the ‘polluter pays principle’ which in the context of climate change holds that developed countries need to pay a more crucial role in combating climate change. This is because climate change is primarily caused by emissions of greenhouse gasses, which is present to a larger extent in developed countries. However one key question that arises to my mind is how will this said paradigm be addressed. Therefore Prime Minister Modi’s reiteration of the said principle is very crucial since many developed countries have been attempting to persuade the UNFCCC to redefine the category of developing countries and include Bharat and China which are developing countries but have rapidly growing economies in the list of developed countries.
I agree with the Bharateeya Prime Minister that advanced countries should make green technologies affordable and accessible. Bharat is deeply concerned about the rising oceans that will threaten its 7,500 km of coastline and over 1,300 islands as well the retreat of glaciers which feed the rivers. The Prime Minister mentioned Bharat’s ambitious target of producing 175 GW of renewable energy. It has been scientifically estimated by the United Nation’s IPCC that the world can emit only about 2900 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from pre-industrialised levels till 2100 in order to stay below 2 degree Celsius global warming. However, the world has already emitted 1,900 billion tones of carbon dioxide till 2011, thereby leaving only 1000 billion tonnes of carbon space for the developing countries that still need to grow and emit.
After aggregating the Intentionally Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of all the countries, it is estimated that the world will emit 748.2 billion tonnes out of the remaining 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. This implies that the aggregate INDCs will finish 75 per cent of the carbon budget by 2030. This in turn leaves minimal carbon space for poor or developing countries to grow beyond 2030. According to a United Nations Environment Programme report, global emissions need to be capped at 48 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025 and 42 gigatonnes by 2030 keeping in mind the target of stabilising temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial level. The current INDCs submitted by over 170 nations globally, fall short of this target and are likely to lead to emissions of 53 to 58 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025 and between 54 and 59 gigatonnes by 2030.
Therefore this leads to an indication that there is a gaping difference between the actual emissions and the emissions intended, which is a reason to worry. These INDCs thus may not be sufficient to keep temperature rise to a reasonable level and would have to be revised before the actual agreement comes into place to replace the Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, a positive move towards efforts to reach a consensus at Paris has been the jointly launched International Solar Alliance by Bharat and France. By this alliance given the excess use of the industrial age, the world will now turn to the sun to power its future. This alliance comprises of 122 countries that lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and furthermore Bharat has pledged USD 30 million in this regard.
Another ambitious pitch by Bharat at Paris has been that of using solar energy. Bharat currently has a capacity of 4 GW and has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Moreover Bharat plans to get 40 per cent of its power from non-fossil sources by 2030 and has awell thought out plan for using renewable sources of energy to fulfill this. Also Bharat along with the United States, China and 17 other nations, launched an initiative known as ‘Mission Innovation’. The total amount of money that is being committed by these said 20 countries is USD 20 billion out of which about half would come from the United States. This mission is an effort designed to accelerate clean energy innovation and address climate change at a global level with a special focus on the developing world in creating commercial opportunities for creating clean energy in developing countries. While private companies will play a vital role in developing these energy innovations, their work will reply on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund.
In my opinion, it is essential that the developed or rich countries keep a check on the utilisation of their carbon footprints and provide space for the poor and developing countries like Bharat to grow economically. The developed countries have a task cut out for themselves to act in a responsible manner by cutting emissions in a big way and guaranteeing finance and technology to support these developing countries. As the Bharateeya Prime Minister rightly said that democratic Bharat must grow rapidly to meet the aspirants of 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom were without any access to energy. Key issues where developed nations need to act upon include that of equity, differentiation, adaptation and finance.
To conclude by echoing Prime Minister Modi’s words that Bharat has come to Paris with a constructive approach, ambitious goals and a positive mindset. While Bharat works to eradicate poverty, prioritises its growth and promotes economic development, it is also focusing at the same time on curbing its carbon dioxide pollution. Therefore Prime Minister Modi’s demand for carbon space for the poor and developing countries is justified for Bharat to restore the balance between ecology and economy. Any agreement that restricts the ability of developing countries like Bharat from growing economically should be not acceptable at all. It is essential that there is a break in the deadlock at Paris and an agreement successfully succeeds the Kyoto Protocol, which is currently the only legally binding agreement on climate change. The new replacement agreement goes into effect after 2020 when the Kyoto Protocol expires and Paris is being seen the last chance to redeem a new agreement after the catastrophe at Copenhagen in 2009.
Vikrant Pachnanda (The writer is an Advocate and the Founder & Managing Editor of India Law Journal)